Speaker promotes nonviolent resistance

Derek Lenehan

The Rev. James Lawson made a public apology to students last night in the Kiva.

“Our generation thought we were going to leave a much different U.S. than what you inherited,” he said. “This is the worst time ever.”

Lawson encouraged students, faculty and community members throughout the evening to undertake nonviolent resistance against domestic and foreign issues, ranging from Iraq to domestic violence.

Lawson is a celebrated civil rights activist and advocate of nonviolent methodology. Throughout his career, he has worked with Martin Luther King Jr., taught in India while studying the nonviolent ways of Mahatma Gandhi and co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, among other accomplishments.

During his speech, Lawson frequently spoke against violence in all forms.

“Violence is the No. 1 enemy of the human race,” he said. “And the main generator of violence is us.”

Lawson cited successful nonviolent resistance campaigns, including Gandhi’s efforts in India, Poland’s independence campaign in 1989, and the civil rights movement in America as proof that nonviolence can bring change.

Patrick Coy, associate professor and director of the Center for Applied Conflict Management and formerly one of Lawson’s colleagues, said that students had three lessons to learn from the speech.

First, the historical role of nonviolent resistance. Second, the relevance of nonviolent resistance for change today. Third, Coy said that students could learn from Lawson’s life.

“Here is someone who has really made a difference with their life, and that’s something students can learn from. ‘How can we make a difference?'” Coy said.

After his speech, Lawson took questions from members of the audience. Following one question, he mentioned that he had a problem with peace movements because they focus on small issues and leave others out.

“Does Kent State have an anti-sweat shop committee?” Lawson asked.

“There used to be one,” a student replied.

“What?” Lawson laughingly asked. “Did they think the fight was over?”

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected].